Starting today, The Road to 2000, Path of Play‘s funding campaign is looking to raise money for play focused projects that assist families affected by autism and related conditions. We got to chat with founder Mike Primeau about the goals of the organization and how important connection through play is to people.
DWP: How did Path of Play get started?
MP: The beginning of the project was inspired by my own family’s journey with autism. Our son Luke was diagnosed in early 2017 and it was as if life came along suddenly and said to us “start again”. We had to re-explore how to become a part of Luke’s world and validate who he was as a person, so that he might embrace and want to be a part of what was around him. Luckily, gaming (board games, pinball, and video games) became a saving grace for us. I was exploring gaming in very unique ways with him, and I decided this was something that needed to be shared with families….so once a month we welcome families into our home as an experiment. Two and half years later, we have been invited by therapy centres, gaming locations and conventions around North shared it in America to institute the Path of Play initiatives.
DWP: What is the mission of the project?
It really does take time to establish a mission statement but we finally have one.
TO EMPOWER FAMILIES LIVING WITH AUTISM THROUGH THE WORLD OF GAMING.
TO CREATE SAFE AND INCLUSIVE SPACES FOR EVERYONE.
TO PROVIDE INDIVIDUALS OF ALL ABILITIES WITH A LASTING OUTLET FOR POSITIVE SOCIAL INTERACTION.
With this mission statement we are acknowledging how it began and where we want to go. Even though the seed for this project began from my family’s journey within the autism realm, our initiatives really aim to serve inclusion.
DWP: What are some of the challenges you’ve had running Path of Play?
MP: There are a LOT people trying to do good things and make this world a better place, and you have to find a way to stand out…in the first two years of any project like this one, you not only have to prove that the idea can accomplish something meaningful, but you also have to be a scientist and explore what purpose it is you are really suppose to serve…all the while you have to hope that those who commit to helping you stay on the boat, because you can never make volunteer time accountable. Luckily, we have an amazing community, and now we see these really amazing folks find their soul with the project, and THEY take the initiative to lift it up in their own way.
DWP: What is a rewarding moment you can remember from the project?
MP: I think one of the most profound moments for this project happened at Origins this year. A family from North Carolina drove up because they had heard about our autism-friendly play space. (I saw autism-friendly and not sensory-friendly because pinball machines are not very quiet…but what we have noticed all throughout these first two years is that the kids use the flippers as a stimming outlet (much like snapping fingers or flapping hands).
The family explained to us that they have never been able to attend events like Origins, because of the sensory challenges with their 6-year old daughter. So, we emptied our game space and we starting filing this girl’s first pinball experience. About 20 seconds in, she was beaming with joy. I found this to be very defining because there are very few families who would think of pinball as a therapeutic outlet…not only for the kids, but also, for the parents….time and time again, we have seen pinball get families excited about ways they can experience play together. All of our gaming practices are important, but pinball does something really special. Technically speaking, you can play without knowing anything about the game. Once you explain that pinball has a rules set and can be tackled in pieces, it becomes a very attractive proposition for our guests.
DWP: How have you seen play positively affect people with autism?
I think the key to what we do rests not so much in the play itself, but using that element of play of giving these kids validation through acceptance. Sometimes families will come in and mingle…other times they keep completely to themselves…but this is not bad at all…sometimes it’s enough for family just to know they are in a place where they know they won’t be judged. And whether or not these kids have special needs, all of them are very aware of this acceptance. It often gives the kids on the spectrum a sense of comfort, and those not impacted by special needs get wonderful context about the importance of understanding and acceptance.
DWP: Your campaign launches November 12, what are you raising money for?
MP: The heart and soul of Path of Play is to exercise gaming initiatives that are repeatable…and that results in a number of things.- Family Gaming Events- Board Game Distribution into therapy centres, schools and family homes- The producing of video content which shows families how to use the games in our Path of Play library.- The development of game variants for kids who experience challenges in rules retention.- The placement of Nintendo Switch consoles into therapy centres. Path of Play uses the game Super Mario Maker 2, and offers its own course library to therapy centre clients, with the goal of maximizing accessibility. This is particularly useful for kids who otherwise would not be able to play a video game.- Online gaming events for our entire Path of Play community. Examples are Jackbox Party Nights, and online board gaming competitions.- The development of inner-school gaming programs facilitated by Path of Play.
We have four city regions where we would like expand the project. TORONTO, PITTSBURGH/PHILADELPHIA, CALGARY/EDMONTON, and COLUMBUS. The reason is because in most cases we have brought the project to these locations, and we see enough evidence from those respective gaming communities that we can sustain those program successfully as we reach our campaign milestones.
As far as the numbers it means this:When we get to 250 monthly supporters, we can bring the program into a new city region full time. It would result in the following.- A monthly gaming event at a pinball, board game, or other gaming location.- The placement of 250-350 board games into therapy centres, schools and family homes.- The placement of 5-10 Nintendo Switch Consoles into therapy centres.
After we reach 1,000 supporters, we will supplement those cities again with the next 1,000 and double the support. It’s nice to have a system like this and that’s why we are introducing our first monthly based support model. It allows us to forecast and lock down scaleable results.
DWP: Will there be stretch goals, rewards, etc?
MP: We are really excited about our swag rewards, because it not only looks awesome, but being a monthly supporter is the ONLY way to obtain any of this stuff. And that means if a person sees you donning something with a Path of Play logo on it, they will know you have done something special.We also have something really cool lined up at our base $5.00 bronze level, especially for the board gaming community.As mentioned, the campaign is called Road to 2,000. We have developed a WONDERFUL relationship with GAMA and the Origins Gaming Fair Committee, and because of their generosity, our first 2,000 supporters at any level will see their name go on our hanging banners at the 2020 convention.
Imagine a convention that supports a charity by allowing it to hang 15-20 banners from the rafters, with ALL the names of the 2,000 supporters….that’s truly an honour to be offered that kind of support. We have a tremendous opportunity to lift the lives of those who struggle to find a game space where they feel truly accepted…nobody should be left out of the game and as a gaming community, we can change that.
You can learn more about Path of Play and the Road to 2000 here.